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Bobbin lace corners and edges of square mats

Click here for edge patterns.

The basic lace shape is a strip of lace, where all the pairs on threads start at the top, and get worked in such a way that they all end at the bottom. If you cut through this strip at any point from one edge to another (what a horrible thought!) you would cut through all the threads.

Bobbin lace strip

A common use of lace is to trim the edge of something, perhaps a mat or a handkerchief. You can do this with a strip of lace, by gathering the lace so it goes round the corner when you're sewing it to the fabric. However, this gives a bulky corner. Modern lacemakers prefer to work the corner as part of the original lace, like this:

Bobbin lace edging

The edges of this are simple strips. But how do you go round the corners? (There is also - how do you start and finish? Click here to see how to do that.)

Part of the pattern will look something like this:

How to work a Bobbin lace corner

You will see that there is a dark grey line cutting through the pattern right in the corner. This is not part of the pattern. You do not work it. It is there to show you exactly where the corner is.

Concentrate on the part above the dark grey line. This is a straight-forward strip. It ends on a diagonal, but that's OK. So work down to the dark grey line. I have shown the threads as pink, so they stand out from the pattern. Each pink line represents a pair of threads.

How to work a Bobbin lace corner

Now (and this is the clever bit!) turn the pillow.

How to work a Bobbin lace corner

Carefully move the bobbins, so the threads hang downwards over the unworked part of the pattern.

Bobbin lace corner pattern

Now you have all the bobbins in the correct position to work the next strip. In fact, there is practically no lace working actually at the corner at all. The threads travel naturally from one pin to another the same as they normally do. There is one exception to this. You will find that you have two pairs at the top - the tip of the corner. It is a good idea to do a short plait to take them to the next pin, as that gives a strong edge to the corner.

Sometimes there seems to be some lace working in the corner itself. The corner tends to produce a slightly empty looking line heading towards the centre. Some patterns fill this gap with lines of solid cloth stitch. That will need to be worked after the end of the previous side of lace and before you start the next. You will need to do either 2 or 4 rows of cloth stitch to make sure that the worker pair ends up in the right place! Sometimes there is a complicated ground such as rose ground either side of the corner line, and this looks as if there are stitches in the corner itself. This is an illusion. Do the rose ground of the previous part, including the final cross-overs. Turn the pillow. Now work the rose ground for the next piece. The cross-overs between the two parts has already been done, and they neatly straddle the corner without you doing anything more.

The end of one edge is a diagonal, and so is the beginning of the next. The outer edge is longer than the inner edge. You will notice that the last bit of lace you work before the corner is a headside, and the first piece of lace you work after the corner is also a headside.

Designing corners

Design of corners can be tricky. You can turn any strip of lace into a corner, but with some reservations. The corner line (the dark grey one) comes between two diagonal lines of pinholes. There must not be anything like a solid shape between these two lines. A solid shape may go up to one line of pins, but there it must stop. It can start again at the next row of pins, but it may not straddle both rows. You cannot have a spider actually in the corner. Simple grounds are fine, but more complicated grounds may cause problems. The centre of a unit of rose ground must not be in the corner, although the cross-overs may be. Click here for more abot this.

In the photo below, you can see what happens if you try to have a solid cloth shape in the corner. The solid cloth stitch has been worked up to the dark grey line, then the pillow turned. Then the solid cloth stich was worked on the other side of the line, presumably using the same pins. Then the lacemaker hopes you won't notice the join! You can see that the workers are moving in different directions before and after the pillow turn.

Bobbin lace corner

It is possible to design a hexagonal edge using a Bucks Point grid. This is worked in the same way, except you turn the pillow through 60° at each corner than than 90°.

Bobbin lace corner